A Nurse with a Gun

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sweetheart of a Story

Some relics of our pasts are treasures. When a man goes to war, the small photos of home and loved ones are priceless. James L. Morris and his driverAfter the attack on Pearl Harbor, with the world at war, James L. Morris left Texas Tech University and enlisted in the U.S. Army. The Army sent him to officer candidate school in Virginia.

In Virginia, he met Velma Cashatt, a young girl who had gone to Washington, D.C. to work for the government during the war. James and Velma married before he shipped out with the 82nd Engineer Combat Battalion. He landed at Omaha Beach two weeks after D-Day. Morris served as the battalion’s executive officer and later as it's commanding officer. The turning point of the war for Europe, the Battle of the Bulge during the Ardennes Offensive was only part of the history experienced by the unit as it fought through France and Germany in 1944 and 1945.

All during this time, photographs of Velma were carried underneath custom clear plastic grip panels on the young officer's Remington Rand M1911A1. The grips were made for Morris by his men, from the fractured windshield of a downed German bomber. Velma CashattThey were a gift of admiration and esteem from a group of men for an honored comrade in arms.

James L. Morris returned from war, and he kept the sidearm that served him so well throughout that part of his life. Velma's photos remained underneath the clear plastic grips of the pistol. He began a new life with his bride and the war relic was placed away as an old memento of a time he hoped would never reoccur. They had a long and fruitful life, and a son who grew up to join the US Navy. In 2005, Velma died. In September 2007, James joined her again. The pistol he carried was bequeathed to his son Jim.

In October, Morris' home was burglarized. Three firearms, including the precious M1911A1 were stolen. "Nothing in this world that I owned had more sentimental value to me," Jim Morris said. "That gun meant the world to me. It means the world to me." Even though he did not have the serial number, he still listed the lost firearm as stolen.

December 2007. Parker County deputies execute a search warrant at a house near Azle, Texas in search of a suspect. The perp was long gone, but the deputies discovered an old gun under a mattress. The homeowner told them he thought it was stolen. The serial number was run through the data base, but it got no hits. Sheriff Larry Fowler The old pistol was placed into the property room. It languished there, unclaimed.

As his office was being renovated in August, Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler saw the old gun laying in the the property room again. A history buff, he decided to conduct a search for the owner again, this time using the photos as a clue. A newspaper article was circulated through the press. "I’ll bet you it was someone connected with the Army Air Forces. They had to have the materials to make this, and I doubt somebody in the infantry would," speculated Sheriff Fowler. The truth is "sweetheart" grips were not uncommon during WWII, and they were most common in infantry units, as Sheriff Fowler learned from multiple telephone calls.

Then, finally, the lawman received the call he had waited for. A man from Stephenville called with a story about a young officer from Texas who fell in love with a girl from Nebraska. A man so loved by his men that they crafted him sweetheart grips to carry her picture under for safekeeping. A couple who built a life for themselves in the trials of war. A photograph recognized, a cherished heirloom recovered. "I never thought I would see it again," Jim Morris said. "My son will get it when I pass away."

Record and photograph your guns and heirlooms. Today may be your last opportunity.



Blogger Owen said...

ah hell that made a lump come in my throat.

8:04 AM  
Anonymous ww2 buff said...

To thank Sheriff Fowler, write to:

Sheriff Larry Fowler
129 Hogle Street
Weatherford, TX 76086

Phone: 817-594-8845
Fax: 817-594-7809

8:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank God it didn't get taken to Chicago, it would have been a manhole cover by now!

8:37 AM  
Anonymous angus lincoln said...

With so much BS going down on a daily basis these days, it's certainly is a mood lifter to hear a story like that. Thanks Xavier.

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey i don't know if you've heard about this but maybe you'd be interested in posting about this to let people know...


cavalry arms got raided by BATF agents and everything seized from misfiling of paperwork, beaurocratic bull. But a lot of gun owners have kept them afloat with support.

10:16 AM  
Blogger dropdownstairs said...

Good point.
I shall take a picture now.
what do you think of this colt DA


10:27 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Interesting timing. I just started creating a catalog of my old relics. They are all logged, but there is nothing to let my kids and grand kids know the stories behind the iron and wood.

They would see an old single shot 12GA with a cracked and whittled stock and strange marks on the barrel. After I am done recording the history, they will know that it was my Grand Father's first gun, and two of his brood of 11 managed to bulge the barrel screwing around on the farm, and that his oldest son black smithed the barrel back into usable shape. The boys used the gun to help fill the larder during the depression and beyond. My Grandfather still hunted with it into the early 1950s. Resale value of about $50 max. Personal value - priceless.

My Grandfather and each of the sons who used it carved their names after their first successful hunt. Four of the six who carved their names in the stock have passed away of old age. My Father and his youngest brother are the only boys left. I am taking it small game hunting this fall, and if I get anything, I am adding my name under my Dad's then will pass it to my son and next year, I think my grandson may be old enough to handle it in the field.

If you have any sentimental or storied firearms, write the story out, the future generations will thank you for giving them the story first hand.

5:11 PM  
Blogger GEM said...

I nearled cried reading this happy ending. I had sent copies of the original story to some media friends of mine, hoping they would do a story on it. Glad someone ran with it and the gun is back with family.

10:26 PM  
Blogger phlegmfatale said...

Wow, what a cool story. I'm so glad the family was reunited with this precious momento.

8:53 PM  
Anonymous beth said...


5:43 AM  

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